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Singing School

Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters

Robert Pinsky (Author, Boston University)


A bold new approach to writing (and reading) poetry based on great poetry of the past.

Quick, joyful, and playfully astringent, with surprising comparisons and examples, this collection takes an unconventional approach to the art of poetry. Instead of rules, theories, or recipes, Singing School emphasizes ways to learn from great work: studying magnificent, monumentally enduring poems and how they are made— in terms borrowed from the “singing school” of William Butler Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium.”

Robert Pinsky’s headnotes for each of the 80 poems and his brief introductions to each section take a writer’s view of specific works: William Carlos Williams’s “Fine Work with Pitch and Copper” for intense verbal music; Emily Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” for wild imagination in matter-of-fact language; Robert Southwell’s “The Burning Babe” for surrealist aplomb; Wallace Stevens’s “The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm” for subtlety in meter. Included are poems by Aphra Behn, Allen Ginsberg, George Herbert, John Keats, Mina Loy, Thomas Nashe, and many other master poets.

This anthology respects poetry’s mysteries in two senses of the word: techniques of craft and strokes of the inexplicable.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • August 2013
  • ISBN 978-0-393-05068-4
  • 5.9 × 8.6 in / 240 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

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  1. Book CoverSinging School: Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters


Endorsements & Reviews

Singing School is nothing like the usual anthology of safe and sane selections. Instead, it is a gathering of poetry designed to stimulate the young and startle the old practitioner, with a surprise around every corner. Where else might you find Sterling Brown's 'Harlem Happiness' next to Queen Elizabeth I’s 'When I Was Fair and Young,' and two poems away from Plath's 'Nick and the Candlestick'?…a book that will instruct and charm every reader.” — Alicia Ostriker

“Robert Pinsky is, everyone knows, one of the great poetry teachers of our time. The tone of his discussion always combines patience and delight, and he is especially valuable to us because the knowledge he imparts is systematic—to read one of his explications of a poem is to understand something more about all the poems you'll read from that moment on.” — Tony Hoagland

Also by Robert Pinsky All

  1. Book CoverAmericans' Favorite Poems: The Favorite Poem Project Anthology


  2. Book CoverClassroom Guide: for An Invitation to Poetry, Student Edition


  3. Book CoverEssential Pleasures: A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud